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St John the Baptist Church Colsterworth

St John the Baptist Church is a grade 1 listed building, sited on the old Great North Road from London to York and near the junction with Ermine Street, the old Roman road to Lincoln. The location is significant to the building’s history. It is also the childhood church of Isaac Newton

The original building would have been a simple structure built by the Saxons.  Although the exact date of the establishment of the church is unknown, amongst the archaeology are remnants of a Saxon cross.  Remains of herringbone stonework, characteristic of Saxon times, are clearly visible in the north wall of the nave.  The last column to the west, unlike the other columns in the church, is square in section and represents the original corner of the Saxon building. The south aisle is thought to be early C13th, while the north aisle was built by the Normans, with two access arches inserted into the herringbone wall.

The tower was built separately by the Normans.  There is a helpful inscription carved into the south face of the tower: ‘Fecit Thomas de Somerby MCCCVI’.

There are six bells dating from 1684 to the most recent in 1911. The nave was probably extended to meet the tower in the C15th, when

the pinnacles and gargoyles were added to the tower. Materials used could have been reclaimed from the local priory, situated on the west bank of the River Witham; the priory was dissolved by Henry V in 1417.

To the eastern end of the north nave wall, just above the Victorian pulpit, is a gap in the wall with the remains of a staircase.  This was the entrance to the rood screen, which was removed in the ‘first year of the reign of Elizabeth’. It was at the base of this stairway that the remains of the early Saxon cross, now on display in the church, were discovered.

The chancel was subject to a rebuild in the 1770s.  Originally there was a manorial aisle to the north side, a fact mentioned in William Stukeley’s memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton, published in 1752: ‘Whilst he (Newton) lived at Cambridge, his mother died at Stamford in 1679. She went thither on a visit to her son, Benjamin Smith. Her body was brought to Colsterworth and buried in the north aisle of the church where this family were generally interred’.

St John the Baptist Church was the childhood church of Isaac Newton, and the parish register contains the only official record of his birth and Christening. He was born on 25th December 1642 and baptised on the following


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